Scientists from Utrecht University develop stained-glass panels with solar cells
Mondriaan solar panels generate electricity
Inspired by the colourful paintings of Piet Mondriaan, solar energy researchers from Utrecht University have developed 'stained-glass’ panels that can generate electricity. On a sunny day, hidden cells in the solar panels are capable of charging up to three mobile phones.
Stained glass windows were once commonly installed in stately homes. In today's houses they are mostly used for decoration or as screens to keep prying eyes at bay. According to Wilfried van Sark, a solar energy expert at the University of Utrecht, solar stained-glass panels can be used to convert sunlight into electricity.
Converting sunlight into electricity
Van Sark: "Our process works luminescent solar concentrators into perspex panels. The sunlight is absorbed into the plate where it is concentrated into the sides of these panels. Our research is well underway at Utrecht University."
All the plates are aligned to the side and linked to narrow solar cells. There are 100 solar cells in Van Sark’s stained-glass panels, each measuring 15 cm long by 0.5 cm wide. The connectors are hidden in wooden frames. "We have developed a window that converts captured sunlight into electricity. On a sunny day the windows can yield enough energy for an attached battery to charge three mobile phones."
Van Sark’s inspiration for the solar panels came from coloured stained-glass windows and the form of Mondriaan’s paintings. For the design of ‘Electric Mondriaan' five different colours are used to make the plastic plates: red, pink, green, yellow and blue.
The concept was created by Van Sark with the assistance of students at the Hogeschool Utrecht.
According to Van Sark, the importance of research into luminescent solar concentrators extends far beyond 'Electric Mondriaan’. "The coloured plates offer an aesthetic alternative to familiar blue and black solar panels. What’s more, they can be used at a large-scale and integrated into the façades of office buildings."
Utrecht University and Sustainability
Sustainability, one of Utrecht University’s four strategic themes, is an important issue within the university’s research, education, valorisation and operations. The university sees it as its social responsibility to make an active ecological, economic and social contribution to a sustainable society. Utrecht University also considers it part of its duty to society to raise awareness among students and staff of the challenges in the area of sustainability, and to apply its research to contribute to solutions to these challenges.